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#NPRreads: Diversity In The Legal Profession

#NPRreads is a feature we're testing out on Twitter and on The Two-Way. The premise is simple: Correspondents, editors and producers throughout our newsroom will share pieces that have kept them reading. They'll share tidbits on Twitter using the #NPRreads hashtag, and on occasion we'll share a longer take here on the blog.

This week, we bring you three reads.

From Carrie Johnson, who covers the Justice Department:

As long as I've been covering legal affairs, I've come across pleas for diversity at the highest ranks of the legal profession. The Justice Department is now led for the first time by an African-American woman, Loretta Lynch. Its day-to-day operations are managed by another woman, Sally Yates. Leslie Caldwell runs its criminal division, and Vanita Gupta is actively leading civil rights investigations of police across the country.

But in a new op-ed and book, The Trouble with Lawyers, legal ethics expert Deborah Rhode says there's still a long way to go to address problems with diversity.

"Women constitute more than a third of the profession, but only about a fifth of law firm partners, general counsels of Fortune 500 corporations and law school deans. The situation is bleakest at the highest levels. Women account for only 17 percent of equity partners, and only seven of the nation's 100 largest firms have a woman as chairman or managing partner. Women are less likely to make partner even controlling for other factors, including law school grades and time spent out of the workforce or on part-time schedules. Studies find that men are two to five times more likely to make partner than women."

Rhode also argues that law "remains one of the least racially diverse professions in the nation," even lagging behind engineering and medicine, and she points to fresh scholarship about bias.

"Moreover, substantial evidence suggests that unconscious bias and exclusion from informal networks of support and client development remain common. Minorities still lack the presumption of competence granted to white male counterparts, as illustrated in a recent study by a consulting firm. It gave a legal memo to law firm partners for 'writing analysis' and told half the partners that the author was African American. The other half were told that that the writer was white. The partners gave the white man's memo a rating of 4.1 on a scale of 5, while the African-American's memo got a 3.2. The white man received praise for his potential and analytical skills; the African American was said to be average at best and in need of 'lots of work.' "

Her account is both compelling and comprehensive. Will the top lawyers and judges in the nation do anything to respond?

From Anastasia Tsioulcas, a producer with NPR Music:

I've been writing about music for about two decades now. When I started out — writing about "niche" genres such as classical music, global music and jazz — there were few female critics and music journalists in North America focusing on the same kinds of music. Admittedly, these are pretty small circles in any case, given the outsider appeal of these genres, but I could only count on maybe two hands the number of women I could look to as examples of doing what I wanted to do. Flash-forward 20 years: It's pretty much still the same song.

It's cold comfort to know that my female colleagues who write about other styles — pop, hip-hop, EDM, Latin, country, what have you — are, in 2015, having those same conversations (over and over again). One of the most bracingly articulated essays about what that dearth means comes from a recent essay in The New Yorker by Anwen Crawford, titled "The World Needs Female Rock Critics." Listen to her:

"Rock music has rarely offered women the same tangible promise of social rebellion and sexual freedom that it has given men — though plenty of women, myself included, have tried all the same to find those liberties in it. 'Boy guitarists notwithstanding,' the journalist Lillian Roxon wrote to a friend, in 1966, 'I don't think I can stand the sight of another bloody electric guitar.' I know just how she felt. ... The most famous rock-music critics — Robert Christgau, Greil Marcus, Lester Bangs, Nick Kent — are all male. Bangs, who died in 1982, at the age of thirty-three, remains the most iconic of them all. Why? Because his hard-living, drug-taking, sunglasses-after-dark-wearing gonzo schtick made him as much of a masculine anti-hero as his rock-star subjects were. The pose doesn't work as well for female critics, from whom displays of bad attitude are seldom tolerated, let alone celebrated. Rock's rebel women, including its writers, are rarely assumed to be geniuses; often, they are assumed to be whores. ...

"The problem for women is that our role in popular music was codified long ago. And it was codified, in part, by the early music press. In the effort to prove the burgeoning rock scene of the sixties a worthy subject of critical inquiry, rock needed to be established as both serious and authentic. One result of these arguments — the Rolling Stones vs. Muddy Waters, Motown vs. Stax, Bob Dylan vs. the world — was that women came out on the losing side, as frivolous and phony."

I can't say for sure whether or not Crawford titled this essay herself, or if an editor did (as they often do). Either way, I love the confidence and ease of it. Any alternative like "Why The World Needs Female Rock Critics" would strike me as less assertive, more cloyingly earnest — for sure, less rock. Crawford certainly doesn't need to prove her bona fides (along with contributing to The New Yorker, she recently published a 33 1/3 title on the band Hole's album Live Through This), but she more than earns her place at the critics' table — sifting music through her own perspective and writing about what she hears on her own terms.

From producer Alexis Diao:

In the aftermath of police killings in Ferguson, Mo., and Baltimore, there has been a call among local communities and the federal government for improved relations between police departments and the citizens they are sworn to protect.

In this retrospective on, reporter Allison Manning looks at a short-lived, but successful group of all-black police officers who were in charge of policing high-crime, mostly black areas such as Dorchester and Roxbury in the early 1970s.

"The Soul Patrol operated like an early version of community policing, where officers work closely with those within their communities. There might not have been a name for it back then, but Williams and the rest of the officers knew what they needed to do.

" 'If you don't get to know the people you serve, they're not going to tell you anything,' [Preston] Williams said.

"Renee Craigwell Reid, daughter of Herbert Craigwell, remembers her mom and dad getting pressure to move out of Roxbury to a nicer suburb, especially once Craigwell became the first deputy superintendent in Boston.

"They resisted, and Craigwell and his wife raised their four children on Waverly Street while tackling issues happening in their neighborhood.

" 'It just meant something to protect and work with their fellow neighbors,' Craigwell Reid says. 'One of the quotes he always said when we had dinner, "Who have I helped today?" ' she continues. 'When you talk about [the Soul Patrol], that was part of it.' "

I liked this article. It doesn't answer questions about how to improve the relationship between communities and their police forces, but it does offer an example of how approaching this question from within communities — rather than from the top down — could yield successful results.

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Carrie Johnson is a justice correspondent for the Washington Desk.
Anastasia Tsioulcas is a reporter on NPR's Arts desk. She is intensely interested in the arts at the intersection of culture, politics, economics and identity, and primarily reports on music. Recently, she has extensively covered gender issues and #MeToo in the music industry, including backstage tumult and alleged secret deals in the wake of sexual misconduct allegations against megastar singer Plácido Domingo; gender inequity issues at the Grammy Awards and the myriad accusations of sexual misconduct against singer R. Kelly.
Alexis Diao